Theatre review: Waist – Free

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: Waist – Free at The Fiddler’s Elbow (Venue 71), reviewed by Sally Stott

I AM sitting next to a man I’m pretty sure is the playwright Tim Crouch in the Free Fringe venue the Fiddler’s Elbow, and we are pretending to be some slashing knives. You couldn’t get a more surreal experience than this – and that is before taking into account anything happening on stage or, more accurately, all around us. Audience members are squeaking, squawking and stamping their feet, playing the role of a monster “with many grey faces” – a monster that, we are told, is about to unleash a god.

Writer and artistic director Toby Parker-Rees’s company Live Beasts thinks those of us watching theatre should be livelier. The piece, written to be performed for free in pubs, is a bold attempt to achieve this by breaking down the barriers between us and the performers.

Crouch is clearly an inspiration and while this isn’t as polished as his own work, it does have a raw ambition and energy that makes it feel unlike anything else you are likely to see at the Free Fringe, or beyond. However, during the first scene, you could be forgiven for worrying it could go either way.

There is sperm in the shower, Nataly, a crumpled-looking woman with an Eastern European accent announces to her flatmate Rob. Yuck, you might think. He, meanwhile, is more interested in sniffing glue and doing poppers. So far, so Royal Court. But slowly the relationship between the pair and their drug-addled friend Si, who works shovelling out ashes in the crematorium, develops – and then they start hallucinating. They see strange things. A satyr. The monster. Us.

There could be more to the story but the way in which the company establish a forth wall only to later tear right through it is compelling. Tom Fraser is mesmerising as the mythological half-man, half-goat and, through Parker-Rees’s boisterous and lyrical dialogue, he vividly describes the creature that we, the audience, eventually, willingly and wholeheartedly become. It’s rare to find a piece that both suits and challenges a pub audience but – though evoking the spirit of Dionysus – this one manages to do both.

Until tomorrow. Today 3:15pm

Originally published in The Scotsman

Were you at this show?

Share your own review in the comments below (just register first), on Twitter with #wow247fest or on our Facebook page